DNA evidence leads to Jacksonville man's arrest in 1984 cold case

Local dental hygienist charged in cold case murder

Thomas Lewis Garner, 59, a local dental hygienist from Jacksonville, is in jail in Central Florida.

He’s charged with first-degree premeditated murder after investigators in Seminole County say he killed a Navy recruit there 34 years ago.

They say DNA evidence helped them build the case against Garner by tracing his family lineage, and building a DNA profile.

Content Continues Below

Seminole County investigators say Garner beat and strangled Navy recruit Pamela Cahanes in 1984.

Her body was found near a vacant home in Seminole County.

A passerby found the 25-year-old Navy recruit just two days after she graduated from basic training.

Investigators say she was wearing only her underwear, with her Navy uniform nearby.

Seminole County detectives credit genetic genealogy with finding a match between Garner’s DNA, and DNA found under the victim’s fingernails.

Investigators say the odds of Garner being the suspect are one to 700 billion.

Action News Jax Ryan Nelson knocked on Garner’s door this afternoon, but no one answered.

Investigators say Garner was living alone in a small apartment in North Jacksonville on Dunn Avenue, and was arrested in a parking lot there Wednesday.

Neighbors found the news unsettling.

“It’s quite naturally concerning because I stay out here,” Gomez said. “You understand what I’m saying? You know, it is it what it is!”

Seminole County deputies say Garner behaved abnormally at the time of his arrest, and is not cooperating with investigators.

He’s being held on no bond in a Central Florida jail.